On November 6, Californians will have the chance to vote on a ballot initiative about genetically engineered food. California Proposition 37, if approved, would require labeling on “raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways” according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. It would also prohibit the labeling or advertising of such food as “natural.”
California would be the first state in the nation to mandate labeling of genetically modified organisms or GMOs. If this proposition passes, other states may be encouraged to pass similar laws. There is no federal law in place and the FDA has very lax regulations about genetically engineered foods, requiring no safety testing of them. All of the European Union countries plus Japan and even China require that genetically engineered foods be labeled as such. Visit the Right To Know website for more details on this proposition and to read the full text of the initiative.
Groups in favor of this proposition passing include the Organic Consumer’s Association, Nature’s Path, The Institute for Responsible Technology, and the California Democratic Party. Groups against Proposition 37 include The California Republican Party, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, PepsiCo, Nestle USA, Coco-Cola North America, and Conagra Foods. See Ballot Pedia for a full list of donors for and against this proposition.
Michele Simon of The Huffington Post wrote a story entitled “Why PepsiCo Is Fighting GMO Labeling in California.” She explains that most of the genetically modified crops being grown in this country are corn crops. PepsiCo uses ground corn, corn oil, and high-fructose corn syrup in its beverages and snack foods, even in snack foods made under the Quaker brand. Having to put GMO labels on all of these products would certainly hurt their sales. Consumers have a right to know what they’re buying, and many of those consumers will no doubt reject genetically modified food.
If you don’t live in California and can’t vote personally on this proposition, its outcome will probably still affect you. If Proposition 37 passes and consumers choose to buy only GMO-free foods, manufacturers will certainly change their current course. This means healthier, safer food for all of us. At the very least, the publicity from this ballot initiative will hopefully lead to more testing of the effects of GMOs on humans who consume them so we can all finally have some facts about whether they are bad for us or not. Until then, if Proposition 37 passes, we can at least have the right to know where these organisms are and so be able to avoid them if we see fit.